Age should not be a barrier to driving but, as we get older and drive in later life, it is important to recognise that we need to be more aware of both our personal safety and our responsibility to other road users. Driving in later life offers freedom and convenience. The advice below should help you make the right personal choice for a positive driving future.
- The Law and the 70+ Driver
- Medication and Mobility
- Bad Habits
- Eyesight and Hearing
- When is the right time to stop driving?
- DIY MOT
The law requires a driver to renew his or her licence on reaching the age of 70, and every three years thereafter. An information leaflet, `What you need to know about driving licences’, and an application form are available from the Post Office.
All drivers, whatever their age, are required by law to notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of the onset or worsening of a medical condition which may affect their ability to drive safely. These include any heart condition, epilepsy, diabetes and difficulty in the use of limbs affecting a driver’s ability to control a vehicle.
It’s difficult to predict whether a particular medication will affect a person’s ability to drive safely. Everyone reacts in different ways and sometimes you don’t even notice the effects until it’s too late. The combined effect of alcohol and medication is even worse.
- Always ask your GP or pharmacist whether your medication will effect your driving – even when taking over the counter medicines.
- Avoid driving if you feel drowsy, dizzy, light headed, having difficulty concentrating, feeling edgy, generally unwell, nauseous or have any loss of co-ordination.
Stiff joints, arthritis or muscular problems can affect your mobility making steering, changing gear and even applying the handbrake more difficult.
- Talk to your doctor about simple exercise programmes that could help to improve your mobility.
- Try automatic instead of manual vehicles.
- Consult mobility experts or Driving instructors about what accessories are available to make driving more comfortable.
- When driving taking frequent breaks to stretch and move around.
Microsleep can last for up to 15 seconds, often with fatal consequences. It can happen to anyone, especially on long journeys (particularly on motorways), after eating or drinking alcohol, if you’re taking medicines or simply suffering from a lack of sleep
If you start to feel sleepy or are aware that you are losing concentration:
- Pull over and have a nap for at least 15 minutes.
- Drink at least two cups of strong coffee.
- Open the car window to let in fresh air.
- Plan a rest stop every 2 hours.
Bad habits can develop over a period of time without you even noticing. Why not have a word with your family and friends an ask them if they’ve noticed that you do any of the following:
- Not indicating, lane swapping or lane hogging.
- Driving whilst tired or using a mobile phone.
- Reading a map, eating or drinking.
- Driving too slowly or too fast.
- Driving without a seatbelt
- Driving without prescription glasses
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Ignoring the recommendations for driving whilst on certain types of medication
Sight can begin to deteriorate from any age. This can make judging speed or distance difficult, particularly at night with the glare of headlights from oncoming vehicles and at junctions
- Have your eyesight checked regularly.
- Make sure you wear prescription glasses if required for driving.
- Remember to look left, as well as right when turning left.
- Regularly clean your windscreen, inside and out.
- Take extra care at junctions, particularly when turning right.
- Take your time and don’t feel pressurised into moving until you feel safe
- Look out for motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.
Your hearing can also be an issue, especially if you can’t hear horns or emergency sirens with the car windows closed.
- Have your hearing checked regularly.
- Keep hearing aid switched on when driving.
We all value our independence and deciding when is the right time to stop driving is not an easy decision to make. Your car has probably played an important part in your everyday life. But, at some point, we all have to face the difficult decision about when to hang up our car keys.
Currently, there is no legal cut-off age, so the responsibility lies with you to decide when is the right time to stop driving. Your safety, and that of other road users and pedestrians, is your most important consideration, so don’t wait for an accident to convince you it’s time to stop.
Answering these questions may help you to think about your driving in a new way:
- Do you worry about making a journey before you leave?
- Do you worry about driving in heavy traffic or bad weather conditions?
- Do you get anxious driving at night or on unfamiliar roads?
- Do you ever feel drowsy or light headed when driving?
- Do you get stressed or anxious when driving?
- Do you sometimes have no recollection of the route you have taken?
- Do you find other drivers try to intimidate you when driving?
- Do you find reversing more difficult than it used to be?
- Do you ever look at the Highway Code?
- Have you had an accident, near miss or confrontation in the last 3 years?
- If you have, did you think the other driver was to blame?
- Have you been stopped by the Police for committing a driving offence?
- Do you always ensure that you and your passengers wear seatbelts?
- Do you always keep to the speed limit?
- Do you regularly check your mirrors before making a manoeuvre?
- Do you sometimes fail to see pedestrians, cyclists or other vehicles until the last minute?
- Do passengers ever comment on your driving?
- Do you ever think about giving up driving?
- Have you ever thought about driver training to brush up on your skills?